The Pittsburgh Power pulled off the most dramatic comeback in AFL history last week, coming back from a 48-17 3rd quarter deficit to defeat the winless Orlando Predators. It gave the Power a much needed victory but also opened up a lot of question marks.
The first major question mark for the Power (2-3) is what they have at the quarterback position. The year started with Kyle Rowley in the role before he was released prior to the season opener against Orlando. Bill Stull and Andrico Hines have also served in that capacity with somewhat poor results. This week's starter, Derek Cassidy, will be the fourth signal caller to be labeled as starting quarterback for the Power already this year.
Looking back to last week, Cassidy completed 12 of 22 passes for 148 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He also rushed for 20 yards and a score. One of his interceptions was fumbled in the end zone by Orlando and recovered for a touchdown, so it was still a positive play for Pittsburgh. He made the plays to win the game, but I cannot say that he was flawless in victory.
The Power continue to spread the ball around on offense. Power wide receiver P.J. "Superman" Berry was named the JLS Ironman of the week for the second week in a row after catching 3 passes for 66 yards and a score, plus 151 return yards in the game. Mike "Joystick" Washington and Randy Hymes each caught two touchdown passes.
Defensively the Power secondary ranks second in the AFL in yardage allowed at just over 250 yards per game. Defensive back Chris LeFlore snagged two interceptions last week against Orlando and now has four this year, one behind the league leaders. Larico Stevenson has also added two interceptions in 2012.
New Orleans is led by quarterback Kurt Rocco, who ranks second in the league in yards (1613), seventh in touchdowns (30), and ranks fourth in the league in QB rating (119.9). Power fans will remember Rocco as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Gladiators last year. He's a tall QB at 6'5" who sees the field well.
Rocco's favorite targets this year are L.J. Castile (38 catches, 446 yards, 11 TD) and Josh Bush (29 receptions, 400 yards, 7 TD's). Bush is also a threat out of the backfield with 11 rushes for 38 yards and two scores and doubles as the VooDoo kickoff return man.
The VooDoo have multiple standouts on defense. Linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson is one of the league's standout stars. He has four interceptions this year already. Defensive back Jeremy Kellem also has four picks this year and leads the team in tackles (36) and passes blocked (8).
Turnovers are going to play a huge factor in this game. New Orleans is 1st in the league in turnover margin (+10) this year whereas Pittsburgh ranks 15th in the league (-7). Pittsburgh has to put a stop to their own self-inflicted wounds. Pittsburgh does have the edge in the penalty department, ranking first in the league with just 25.8 yards of penalties per game. The VooDoo average 56.6 YPG in this area, putting them at 14th in the league.
As usual, when deciding who is going to win a particular AFL game, you need to start at the quarterback position. The VooDoo have a decided advantage in this area, so it will be up to the Power secondary to play as well as they did in the second half against Orlando. Pittsburgh needs to force some turnovers to have a chance in this one.
I don't see that happening. VooDoo win this one.